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Chapter 07: Sixteen Matra Talas

 

This is the first of many chapters covered in this unit and unit five to discuss the garland of talas that exist in tabla. Tala cycles range as small as three matras to as large as 108 matras. Matras beyond sixteen are not commonly used at present. In fact, matras beyond sixteen are meant for dhrupad and pakhawaj compositions. As dhrupad and pakhawaj compositions are very low in popularity, talas greater than sixteen matras also lost their popularity.

 

Currently, six, seven, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen matra talas are very common in classical, semi-classical, and modern types of music in India.

 

The first talas that will be taught are sixteen matra talas. The first tala in this unit taught is the “tintal.” The word “tintal” means “three claps.” Notice in Chapter 6, the claps in the clapping-waving convention is called a “tali.” Sixteen matra with three talas is the best way to describe it.

 

The actual tala contains four vibhags. Each of the four vibhags contains four matras each. Thus, they are divided 4-4-4-4. The jati of this tala is catastra jati. In fact, this is the very tala we used to explain the fundamentals of tala.

 

Reviewing the accent technique for tintal: Remember that sam and accent numbers receive claps, while zero receives waves. The first row indicates the matra number. The second row indicates accent numbers. The bottom row indicates the clap and wave sequences.

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

X

2

3

4

2

2

3

4

0

2

3

4

3

2

3

4

CLAP

2

3

4

CLAP

2

3

4

WAVE

2

3

4

CLAP

2

3

4

Figure 7.2

 

Now, it is time to represent the actual tintal cycle. Here it is:

X

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

dhā

dhin

dhin

dhā

dhā

dhin

dhin

dhā

dhā

tin

tin

dhin

dhin

dhā

 

Figure 7.3

AUDIO CLIP: Figure 7.3

 

Look at the notation used above. This is the notation we will use for this textbook. This is known as the Bhatkhande notation. It consists of three lines (maybe four or five, depending on if musical notes or words are being played or sung). The first line indicates the tala signs, such as X for sam, 2,3,… for talis after the sam, and 0 for khali. The middle line indicates the matra numbers. The last line shows which bols fall at what points of the rhythmic cycle.

 

Play this cycle on the tabla. Listen to the flow of the tala and notice that matras 1, 5, and 13 have natural accents. Matra 9 is least accented. Play this tala continuously for five or six cycles. After completing the final cycle, recite while clapping and waving. It sounds incredibly similar to the actual tabla cycle. This is the usefulness of the clapping-waving method.

 

When playing any tala, always recite the tala matras while using the clapping-waving method. After reciting one cycle of reciting tala matras, include bols while clapping-waving your hands. After one cycle of reciting bols, play the tabla for a few cycles.

 

This cycle of tintal is the standard cycle. The simple, standard style of a particular tala is known as the theka. The theka, usually, involves simple bols and usually based on the “one-bol per matra” formula.

 

Of course, there are many renditions of this tala, which are really derived from the theka.

 

Here is one style:

X

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

dhā

dhi

ra

dhi

ra

dhā

dhā

dhi

ra

dhi

ra

dhā

dhā

ti

ra

ti

ra

dhi

ra

dhi

ra

dhā

 

Figure 7.4

This is a prakar or a rendition of tintal. The whole concept of prakar and theka will be discussed in great detail in Unit Four. Nevertheless, notice on matras 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, and 15, each cell is divided in half. The half cells indicate half matras. Mathematically speaking, if you define one matra to be equal to one second, then the half matra will be 0.5 seconds. If you have a musical background and know about duration of beats, this shouldn’t be a new concept. To someone totally new into music, this might be somewhat difficult.

 

Here is another prakar.

X

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

dhā

dhin

dhin

dhā

dhā

dhin

dhin

dhā

dhā

tira

tun

dhin

dhin

dhā

 

Figure 7.5

 

This is one of the most very common prakars ever. In fact, some will use this more than the theka, as “tira-tun” is more commonly used phrase. It adds flavor to the style. Some artists will replace matra 12

 

The possibilities of great combinations keeping this tintal pattern exist. Try out this common style, commonly known amongst the Benares Gharana. For the elementary tabla player, this style might seem “incorrect” as the talis do not truly work out here. However, it is their unique baya playing technique which allows them to make it work. However, don’t worry too much on that. Right now, focus on playing this.

X

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

dhin

dhin

dhin

dhin

tin

tin

dhin

dhin

 

Figure 7.6

 

Before moving on, please remember that “matras” indicate time. One matra indicates a particular unit of time. Talas are based on “matras per cycle.” Do not confuse matra with the number of bols. The phrase bols have been appropriately split up. When one matra is equally divided by two, then there are two half matras. Dividing a matra implies fractional time.

 

SITARKHANI TALA

 

Another tala of great importance is sitarkhani tala.  This has a similar behavior to Punjabi sitar playing movements, as some people believe. As this is commonly used, people assumed that this tala was invented by tabla player “Siddhar Khan.” Thus, “siddhar-khan-e-tala” in Urdu translates to “Siddhar Khan’s groove.” Throughout time, the words might have been changed. Nevertheless, this is a commonly used semi-classical tala.

 

Unlike tintal, half matras, and uneven full matras are introduced. An uneven full matras means that one whole matra is found within a fraction from the first matra to the corresponding fraction of the second matra. For instance, half way through matra 2, a bol is played in one matra’s time that ends half way into the third matra.

 

The division of the tala sitarkhani is exactly the same as tintal. The divisions are 4-4-4-4, while talis on sam, matra 5, and matra 13, and khali on matra 9. We use two rows to describe the talas. Rows, generally, do not affect time. If we had a longer piece of paper, we could write it in a straight chain like Figure 7.4, 7.5, and 7.6.

 

Here is the theka:

X

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

dhā

ge

dhin

ge

dhā

dhā

ge

dhin

ge

dhā

0

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

dhā

ke

tin

ke

ge

dhin

ge

dhā

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUDIO CLIP: Figure 7.7

Figure 7.7

 

Notice in the first vibhag, the “ge” occupies the first half of matra 2, while “dhin” starts on the second half of matra 2 and ends into the halfway point of matra 3. “Ge” completes the rest of matra 3. When counting this matra, try counting the first vibhag as “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and” to consider the half matras. The “ands” represent the half matras.

 

The best way to understand fractional matras is by simply practicing all forms of tintal and the theka of sitarkhani tala. Do not consider moving ahead, for future chapters will involve fractional matras. In addition, be sure you can play tintal and sitarkhani tala, keeping time, sharpness, and accuracy. Improvisations will come naturally, but do not worry about this as of yet.

 

Remember, this is not like a regular course where things just come in within a few weeks. This takes constant practice and regular enforcement.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009